Sunderland Echo - - Football - By Phil Smith Twit­ter: @Phil__Smith

Si­mon Grayson hopes that Sun­der­land’s 2-2 draw with Pre­ston two weeks ago, a game they ar­guably de­served to win, will prove to be a turn­ing point in their sea­son.

The Black Cats boss in­sists he has not given up on tak­ing Sun­der­land into the Sky Bet Cham­pi­onship play-offs this sea­son de­spite their lowly league po­si­tion, 23rd out of 24.

To­mor­row’s Sta­dium of Light clash with QPR is the first of three home games in a cru­cial month, fac­ing Ian Hol­loway’s side who are with­out a win in five.

Asked about the im­por­tance of the Pre­ston point, and per­for­mance, Grayson said: “Let’s hope so [a turn­ing point]. Some­times there are piv­otal mo­ments in a sea­son.

“I think the per­for­mance re­flected that in terms of, when we con­ceded two goals very quickly and found our­selves 2-1 down, we didn’t crum­ble, we got back into it quickly and af­ter we equalised we were the dom­i­nant team and looked like the most likely win­ners.

“It was a good re­flec­tion of what we have in the dress­ing room.

“Some peo­ple might ques­tion the char­ac­ter of the play­ers or their at­ti­tude some­times, but I see them ev­ery day and I know they are hurt­ing with the re­sults over the last few weeks.

“They care for this football club and they are des­per­ate to do well.

“Let’s hope that, when we look back at the end of the sea­son, we can say that Pre­ston was the turn­ing point.”

QPR’s poor away form un­der­lines the need for Sun­der­land to end im­prove their dread­ful points re­turn on Wear­side, some­thing Grayson knows is key to keep­ing his play-off hopes alive.

He said: “The sup­port­ers are vi­tally im­por­tant be­cause they are there through thick and thin and we have to give them some­thing to cheer about.

“We have to be pos­i­tive in our ap­proach, we have to take the game to the op­po­si­tion and make sure our fans are en­joy­ing what we are do­ing – that’s the bot­tom line.

“Win­ning football matches will make every­body a lot hap­pier. We haven’t done enough of that so far this sea­son. “Let’s move forward. “As quickly as you can lose a few games and move down the ta­ble in this di­vi­sion – three wins in a short space of time can cer­tainly take you up the ta­ble.

“Our at­ti­tude hasn’t changed from day one–we still want to be some­where near the play-offs, we want to be pro­moted if we can this year, and that’s still vi­able be­cause of the na­ture of the Cham­pi­onship and how tight it is.”

Part of Grayson’s con­fi­dence comes from a squad near­ing full fit­ness and avail­abil­ity.

Af­ter be­ing crit­i­cised for his sub­sti­tu­tions ear­lier in the cam­paign, the Black Cats boss now be­lieves he has the op­tions to change games, with the in­ter­na­tional break coming at an op­por­tune mo­ment.

He said: “[The break] came at the right time for us. It gave us time to take stock of where we are and what we need to do.

“It al­lowed some of the play­ers who’ve played a lot of football to get rest, al­lowed us time to get some work done with the likes of Cal­lum McMana­man, who, prior to coming here, hadn’t had a lot of football.

“We’ve done work on the train­ing pitch, as much as you can with (some of ) the play­ers away. Hope­fully it’ll be to our ad­van­tage.

“Suc­cess­ful teams have shown that you can win games from the bench. It’s no dis­re­spect to the lads who have been on the bench in other games, but I looked at the bench at Pre­ston –Wat­more, Wil­liams, McMana­man, Oviedo, Gib­son, Kone – that’s a strong bench.

“When you add McNair, Maja and Grabban over the next few weeks, that’s real com­pe­ti­tion.”

Di­dier Ndong (left) gets stuck in for Sun­der­land at Pre­ston two weeks ago.

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